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Summer travelers can add a space detour to their journey

June 29, 2023

Art exhibit celebrating NASA’s Psyche mission on display at Phoenix airport

Passengers approaching the Terminal 3 security line at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport might notice a collection of art pieces and sculptures with a sign that reads: “Psyche: Mission to a Metal World.”

The exhibit is part of NASA’s Psyche Inspired internship program, where undergraduate students nationwide celebrate the Psyche mission through artistic and creative works. The mission, scheduled for launch Oct. 5, will send a robotic spacecraft to Psyche, a metal-rich asteroid that could provide clues into the formation of planets. 

So far, the Psyche Inspired art program has included 91 undergraduate interns from 43 colleges and universities. The next cohort will be announced at the end of July.

Travelers walking by and looking at an exhibit at an airport

The Psyche Inspired exhibit at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport presents a sampling of works by 14 students utilizing paint, fabric, animation, metal and sculpture. The art program has been ongoing for several years, and undergraduate students from across the U.S. chosen for the latest cohort will be announced near the end of July.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of amazing works of art created by Psyche Inspired students over the years,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, an Arizona State University Regents Professor and the principal investigator for the Psyche mission. 

“Marching band pieces, poetry, cooking, jewelry, digital art, you name it. It’s so human and connecting, and it captures all the emotions that we all feel about this mission.”

ASU News talked with two students whose work is currently displayed in the airport exhibit, which will be in place through the end of October.

Handmade dress on a mannequin

"Metallic Warrior" by ASU astrobiology student Siena Smania.

Siena Smania: “Metallic Warrior”

Siena Smania graduated from ASU in May with a degree in astrobiology. Here's how she describes her piece:

“So, one of the main aspects of Psyche and why scientists find it so interesting is because it’s metallic and it’s very large,” Smania said. “They think that it could be remnants of a planetary core that didn’t get fully developed or shattered and fell apart.

“That being said, I really wanted to take this metallic aspect and turn it into something like a dress. I found a metallic fabric that I really liked. It’s like a dark gray, very metallic, and it looks like nickel.

"The asteroid itself (may be) mostly composed of nickel and iron, but it also (might have) some gold in it, which is why I decided to add some gold accents as well.

“I really wanted it to look like something that could have come out of Star Wars. Actually, when I did the photoshoot taking pictures of me in the dress, I brought a lightsaber with me.”

Painting of Psyche goddess

"Psyche Has a Metal Soul" by Virginia Commonwealth University student Levi Keatts. 

Lev Keatts: “Psyche Has a Metal Soul” 

Lev Keatts graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with interests in printmaking and math. Here's his take on his piece:

“I obviously studied both math and art, so I had an interest in STEM and art, and this was kind of an ideal opportunity to find ways to combine those interests,” Keatts said.

“I decided to use a metal canvas, which is actually an older painting technique that kind of lost popularity but has recently been brought back with painting on copper and aluminum.

“I wanted to have a line between Psyche the asteroid having a metal core that kind of inspired the mission and then by having this painting that has Psyche as the mythological figure on physical metal, making that connection and hopefully making the audience curious about it.”

>>EXPLORE: Read more about the Psyche mission

Top photo: Travelers pass by the “Psyche: Mission to a Metal World” exhibit in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s Terminal 3, near the TSA Security Checkpoint entrance, in April. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

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Willing to pay to get away

June 29, 2023

Record-breaking car travel predicted for July Fourth holiday — even with bump in gas prices

More than 50 million Americans will get in their cars and drive out of town for the Independence Day weekend, setting a new domestic travel record for the holiday, according to AAA.

They can also expect to pay extra at the pump this week to reach their final destinations. Those costs are likely to continue throughout July and August, but consumers don’t seem to care because they paid more at this time last year.

According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular gas was $4.80 on July 4, 2022. This year they’re paying about a dollar less per gallon, thanks to the lower cost of oil. But they’re about to experience a bump.

It’s now accepted practice that the price of motor fuel will increase exponentially when there’s high demand. 

ASU News spoke to economist Dennis Hoffman, director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business and director of ASU's Office of the University Economist, about the cost of fuel and summer travel.

Man in black jacket and shirt smiling

Dennis Hoffman

Question: Does demand for fuel increase or decrease in the summer? 

Answer: It depends on the locality. Summer driving season typically refers to vacations. So, more vacation driving and a little less work commuting.

Q: Gas prices in the past two years during summer seem to be at an all-time high, yet it doesn’t deter anyone from traveling. Why do you think that is?

A: Vacation opportunities tend to be calendar driven. People plan them months in advance. So, an Arizona family trip to California happens. If gas is expensive, then it will cost more. To cope, some families will spend less elsewhere — for example, on fewer days in California, one less lunch at Sea World. Families adapt to price pressures on gas by saving elsewhere.

Q: The shock of paying $4 to $5 a gallon seems to have waned. Do you think it’s because we’re now getting used to that price or because they can’t do much about it?   

A: We can and will do something about the Phoenix-specific problem. The legislature should have addressed our supply issues three years ago. They are finally keen to address the problem by changing our fuel blend requirements to a formula that meets EPA standards and is more commonly available.

Q: Saudi Arabia announced earlier this month that it would begin cutting oil production by 1 million barrels per day in July to support the “stability and balance of oil markets.” Does that ring true?  

A: They are cutting since world oil prices have slipped. Stability to them means stable or higher prices.

Q: What can our government do now to alleviate high gas prices?  

A: State government can and is presumably taking action that should help, especially by next spring. The federal government can’t do much in the short term. Fundamentally, the country doesn’t have enough refining capacity, especially in the West. But there is little incentive to build new refineries given the unrelenting trend toward electric vehicles. While getting a new refinery permitted is hard, I don’t hear much about oil companies trying to build them either. The 10-to-20-year return investment doesn’t add up for them.

Top photo by Quintin Gellar via

Reporter , ASU News